Lexington, Ky.—Aug. 10
Keely Laughlin might have been anxious before the first round of tonight’s USEF Pony Finals individual jumper championship, but Laughlin was all business when she went back for the jump-off. Guaranteed at least silver, she’d already accomplished her main goal.
“I’m so excited. I feel like this is a dream or something. I was hoping to finish either first or second, and I knew my pony could do it,” said Laughlin of Pam Poulsen's Larger Than Life. “I was really nervous before the first round because I wanted to move up, but I was really pumped up before the jump off. My heart was still running from the first round. I didn’t even have time to get nervous.”
After two rounds of jumping—the first Wednesday and the second on Thursday —Laughlin and Larger Than Life entered the final round of competition with 0 penalties on their record. However, eight other riders were sitting on 0 penalties as well. But while rails fell throughout the other rides, Laughlin didn’t add anything to her score, putting in a clean round to stay tied with just one pair—Ellyn Fritz and Back Country Farm’s Sailor Moon.
Laughlin, 12, went first in the jump-off, putting in a speedy time of 31.22 seconds. Fritz also jumped clear, but her time of 31.63 seconds couldn’t quite catch Laughlin’s.
“For the first round, my trainer, [Tracy Cotchett], just told me to go clean,” said Laughlin, of Carmel, Calif. “The first day I almost went off course, so I really didn’t want to do that today. Tracy told me to go fast in the jump-off because we knew [my pony] could do it. He makes the tightest turns.”
Laughlin has been riding Larger Than Life for about two years now.
“When I was first started riding him, I was like, ‘Oh no, he’s crazy,” she said of the 11-year-old gelding. “I was used to my equitation ponies, but now I think he’s totally normal.”
But Laughlin and Fritz weren’t the only riders who faced a jump-off; there were three riders fighting for bronze after tying with 4 penalties. Kady Abrahamson on Salsa, Elizabeth McDougald on Knock My Sox Off and Amanda Pennington on Vintage View Farm’s Res Q Me all had one rail down each over the short course, but Abrahamson’s zippy trip earned her the third-placed ribbon. McDougald finished fourth and Pennington took fifth after having some turning issues and also picking up 12 time penalties.
The final round course caused a few big surprises. Last year’s winner and another rider tied for first before tonight, Julia Curtis on The Waterboy, was eliminated after two stops. Claire Salopek also picked up two refusals and an elimination with Sir Lance-A-Lot.
Just the top 18 pairs came back for the individual final. Elizabeth Shaffer and Styled With Perfection were the winners of the farewell class, held earlier in the evening.